This morning’s amusement was Amol Rajan, editor of the British Paper, Independent, stating that his paper was going to refer to Mumbai as Bombay, to prevent “Hindu Nationalists” from getting their way
“The whole point of Bombay is of an open, cosmopolitan port city, the gateway of India that’s open to the world. If you call it what Hindu nationalists want you to call it, you essentially do their work for them.”
Obviously, it caused a storm (also known as an outrage) in the twitter teacup.
The Independent, is owned by the Russian Oligarch Alexander Lebedev, and has been struggling for mindspace and audiences, since it launched in 1986.
Given that they are reacting to an even that took place over 2 decades ago – Bombay officially became Mumbai in 1995, and a few generations of Indians (at least 3 by my reckoning) have grown up knowing Bombay as Mumbai, one can’t but help wonder about the timing of this. I can understand, if they took this stand in 1995. But, 2016, is late reaction even by print standards.
But, given that one believes in the Freedom of Expression, and the right of people to behave in inexplicable ways, i have some suggestions for Mr.Rajan, in terms of nomenclature
- Refer to the USA as The Colonies or The New World– that should be the simplest. The first lot of colonies to go independent. Post that there was the genocide on the native Americans, mass colonisation and violation of human rights and the rest. modern history (post world war) has 2 nuclear bombings, the devastation of south east Asia, the cock up in the middle east, the screw up in South America. And, these are just things that i can rattle off without too much research. there are a lot more, and the Brits should stand up for human rights and freedoms by reverting to the British name for America. Also it will cock a snook at Mr.Trump #justsaying
- Caledonia – was the ancient name for Scotland. And, since we live in a post colonial world, it is time that we reverted to ancient names, and not allow the colonial apologists to win It will also, confuse the Scottish National Party.
- Eire – well Northern Eire, sounds a lot nicer than Northern Ireland
- Chai – well, chai is much nicer than Tea. Besides, Tea is a term associated with bonded labour, forced plantations, and environmental degeneration. Time to change that too.
- Arabia – dudes, the ‘Middle East’ is to the west for most of the world’s population. Stop using geographically inaccurate terms, and those that are intrinsically wrong. Revert to Arabia, or the Arabian peninsula.
- Bedouins – before Saudi Arabia came to be, and it’s citizens were called Saudi Arabians, they were the Bedu’s – tribes that ruled the Arabian peninsula. They seemed a lot nicer than modern Saudi Arabia. Atleast they didn’t export Wahabism and Salafism, and set the world on fire. Can we please revert to that too.
I could go on and on, but you get the drift. Besides, in a start up mode, i cannot afford the time to be too snarky about the silliness of the world.
Sufficient to say, Mumbai is neither intolerant, nor is it non inclusive, and it is cosmopolitan – except not in a western, elitist definition of cosmopolitan. It just is a name for the city – an ancient name based on an ancient goddess who is the guardian of the place.
Before i sign off, a cynical theory. Why is a British newspaper taking a stand on Indian city names. The answer is quite simple. India is a major source of web traffic. The Guardian has 7.5% of it’s total web audience from India, and this does not include the Indian diaspora (so if you were wondering, why the Guardian carries so much content on India, you have your answer). And, the best way to attract audiences, is to cause a controversy in a twitter tea cup. Outrage drives pageviews (but, those don’t last).
(Guardian, source Alexa)
Similarly, the Independent has a sizable chunk of it’s audience coming in from India
(The Independent : Source Alexa)
If i were trying to increase traffic numbers, i hopefully will desist doing something this inane, and try and improve the quality of content And, to the team at independent, if you want to get a better insight into targeting Indian audiences, call me